The continued expansion of the welfare state is a grave concern to me, now more than ever. I fear the expansion of the welfare state because I believe it infantilizes society. By this I mean that citizens of the united states become more dependent on the federal government’s largesse, and in so doing become less inclined to behave responsibly, secure in the knowledge that if all else fails, the government will be there to save.
Now freed from the main concerns of life, such as finding food and shelter, and now freed from having to constantly be working to afford these things, people will be increasingly able to enwrap themselves in their own little petty dramas. In a panem et circenses world, this will mostly take the form of eating junk food and watching mindless entertainment, which is what a large number of US citizens already do anyway. The more serious minded might make an effort to watch and read the news, but the news is still entertainment, although more deceitfully packaged. Ultimately, the infantile society is one where innovative risk is discouraged, moral risk is subsidized, and the pursuit of leisure and entertainment becomes the point of life.
This is not healthy, and is indeed a form of arrested development, for people will not be expected to worry too much, nor will people be expected to work hard, at least in the sense of doing labor. The emphasis will be on being compliant citizens and, above all else, being safe. This emphasis on safety is the most infantilizing action of all. Consider, for example, how risk-averse boys are treated by their more adventurous peers: they are often called babies. And the more risk-averse men are often called boys by their peers. The idea is that there is some shame to be found in prizing safety above all else, and that aversion to risk is a hallmark of youth, wherein one lacks the resources to deal with the risks that adults often face.
What’s interesting about this infantilization of society, though, is how it is self-perpetuating. The childish mindset belied by the focus on safety—which is very much in full effect in the united states, as evidenced by the DHS, among a variety of other safety-oriented federal agencies—is often accompanied by another childish mindset: tattling.
And here is how it all works: citizens are treated like children, and they eventually come to act like children: dependent ignorant, unthinking, and hedonistic. They are unduly focused on safety, being generally unable to provide it for themselves, and they are told that they can only be safe if they obey The Rules. Nothing enrages the infantile mind more than disobedience to the rules; it is as if the fundamental justice of the universe has been called into question if anyone ever disobeys The Rules. They are in place to keep us safe, after all, and therefore everyone must comply with them.
Therefore, when the infantile-minded of society observe someone disobeying the rules, like running a red light or holding gold when it’s forbidden to do so, the infantile-minded will have no qualms about tattling to the paternalistic government because they perceive themselves to be acting in the best interest of society. In reality, the tattlers are nothing more petty tyrants who wish to exercise power over others, in the guise of acting in everyone’s best interests.
Nonetheless, that is how the paternalistic society works and self-perpetuates. Citizens are treated as children, then act as children, and eventually take on the vices of children. And then society collapses on itself.